The Riverhead, Harbour Grace native is releasing his seventh book, "What Lies Below." Published by DRC Publishing, it chronicles the story of a fictional member of the British Royal Navy who comes to Harbour Grace during the Second World War. From there, the story takes many twists and turns, lasting well into the 21st century.
As Collins notes, the British Royal Navy stationed a submarine in Harbour Grace for training purposes in 1943. The Royal Canadian navy also set up a base at the airfield to track submarines.
"I used those two resources to set the stage for a gentleman from England who experienced a horrific event that resulted in him having shell-shock or PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)," Collins explained.
Prior to writing the book, Collins spoke with two men from Freshwater and Crocker's Cove, Anthony Moores and Eric Parsons, who were on the training sub as boys.
"What was really interesting was one of these gentlemen can remember one of the sailors who had been invited down … for dinner, and this sailor fell in love with a daughter. The daughter was too young to be with the sailor, so the father warned the sailor to stay away."
As Collins tells it, the girl wrote the sailor after he left Harbour Grace but didn't hear back. Two years after the war, she learned in a letter from the sailor's mother he perished.
"That inspired me to think about all the other people that made sacrifices from Europe who came here, and our soldiers who went over there and the kinds of sacrifices that were made and the stories that were untold," said Collins. "So I wanted to put together a story that showed how much a person being away from home, especially having PTSD, would face."
The story unfolds over the course of several decades, weaving in themes of romance and loss through tragedy. Harbour Grace landmarks like Ridley Hall and the Conception Bay Museum come into play. Modern outlaw biker culture and organized crime — phenomena known to have a presence in the Conception Bay North area— eventually become a part of the narrative, taking the story all the way to 2010.
Writing a work of historical fiction set in the 20th and 21st century is atypical for Collins, who usually focuses on tales taking place in the 19th century — 2012's "Spirit of the S.S. Kyle" is the lone exception amongst his previous books.
"I'm hoping that it will appeal to everyone, but I think it might have an added appeal this time to a younger audience," Collins said.
The book launch for "What Lies Below" takes place Aug. 13 from 3-6 p.m. at the Kearney Tourist Chalet on Harvey Street in Harbour Grace. Collins will be there to sign copies of the book.